After hemming and hawing about whether to take Juliette to the doctor, I called Tuesday morning to see if they could see her for her low-grade fever. Dealing with fever in France means having to rewire my traditional or empirical measuring system. It seems I was born knowing that 98.6 was normal. In Fahrenheit, sure. I learned that the Celsius equivalent was 37 in school. But what’s a real fever and what’s just a little “temperature”? Apparently 37.5 or 38 is just low-grade here. 38.5°C is the turning point. So after a few days here and there with a bit of a fever in the evening, plus a little runny nose and sometimes crankiness and appetite change, this ever-worrying mommy decided to err on the side of caution again.
Never mind that just about everyone in France has been telling me that teething babies often run a small fever and have a runny nose. My American medicine boxes clearly stated that fever was NOT a teething symptom and neither was nasal congestion. Dr. Spock’s baby book seconded the motion. Despite all that I still felt the need to justify myself to Tata Marie, who was on the fever-goes-with-teething side. Besides, the pediatrician is the same one who visits the “crêche,” or day care, so word would have gotten back to her. “You know, I just want to get it checked out all the same,” I told her. She sort of smiled to the side resignedly and said, of course, you do what you want. I should have told her I even tend to doubt my own very informed mom, so not to take it personally.
I debated on whether to drive or walk on this September day with a little breeze. If I walked, Juliette might have the wind in her face. But there was the hassle of driving and getting home traffic. So in the end I bundled up sweetums and strolled down to the pediatrician’s office.
As I entered his office, I chattered apologetically to the doctor. “I’m sure you’ll say I’m an over-worried mom and it’s nothing at all,” I said. He was just all business-like and asked me to undress baby on the examining table as he asked about her symptoms. And (luckily!) as I expected, after his examination he gave her the all clear. Ears, lungs, throat all seemed fine. Watch out for high fever and spikes over 38.5°C. And if everything else seems fine, we can attribute the fever to- what else- teething.
I took advantage of the visit to ask him about vaccinations. Why is it that American babies are vaccinated for chicken pox and not French ones? Of course, I asked a bit more diplomatically than that. He said something about the French medical commission not deeming it a priority at the time. I’m wondering if they just don’t want to seem like they do everything like us. The normal flu vaccine isn’t necessary for healthy kids, he said, but you can have it if you want. And concerning the big bad H1N1 virus, he didn’t think it would be given to healthy kids either. Later on the news I saw that it may in fact be given to kids from six months to two years old. What are they saying in the US about this? Frankly, we folks who aren’t in the know don’t feel so comforted by all these conflicting reports.
So I left the office and we strolled back on home as thunder rumbled in the distance. Sure enough, we started getting splattered and the bottom fell out, as we like to say in my family. As we took shelter in the overhang at the post office, I thought that if she hadn’t been sick before the visit, the downpour wouldn’t make things better. Ah, well, at least I had the best of intentions.